Tag Archives: leaders

And then there were ‘nones’

How Business leaders can evangelize unchurched millennials in the workplace

They don’t believe in much of anything. They seem apathetic with regard to matters of faith. They might admit to atheism or agnosticism, or they might simply describe themselves in terms like “spiritual, but not religious.” They might have some vague belief in God or Jesus, but they don’t identify with any particular religion or denomination. And they’re not even “searching.” Predominantly, they are young millennials, born between 1981 and 1996; some 40 percent of millennials self-identify in this category, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Collectively, they are the “nones.” Millennial “nones” populate all sectors of the workforce — professionals, technicians, academics, tradesmen, and service workers. And for their managers and co-workers who feel called to lead them toward faith, they present a significant challenge: Who are the “nones” among us? Can they be reached at all? And if so, can it be done within the workplace environment?

Faith at work

Traditionally, companies that don’t have an explicit religious mission have not been friendly to religious conversation or expression. Because religion is seen as a potentially divisive issue, it’s largely been a matter of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But that’s been changing in more recent years, as some business leaders are seeing a case to be made for allowing religion in the workplace. Yet these are the exception, and tensions often persist.

“I think evangelizing is more challenging today because I believe Christianity is under wraps,” said Mike McCartney, an executive coach who is director for Legatus’ Genesis Chapter in northwest Ohio as well as a member of Legatus’ National Board of Governors. “If some companies have made a move toward allowing greater religious expression, especially Judeo-Christian, I’m not seeing it as a trend.”

He sees the opposite, in fact. “Corporate America likes to tout values like ‘spirituality’ and ‘servant-leadership,’ but companies do not dare give voice to what these words truly stand for,” he said. Instead, secular business values like diversity, inclusion, and political correctness prevail, which often leaves practicing Catholics viewed suspiciously as “narrow-minded, judgmental, even bigoted.”

Publicly owned companies can present special issues. While each has a unique dynamic, the overriding corporate culture is highly secular. Companies that have proactively sought to lead and celebrate social change have grown more tolerant of traditional faith and values and are increasingly transparent as to what is celebrated and what is tolerated, said Gerald Schoenle, director of global trade services for the Ford Motor Company.

“In this environment, there are opportunities to reach out to ‘nones’ to share our faith and personal relationships with Jesus and our loving Father, but there are at least two challenges to overcome,” said Schoenle, a Legate of the Ann Arbor Chapter and a past member of Legatus’ National Board of Governors.

First, the interaction needs to be welcoming, he explained, done in private so as to avoid disruptions and “exposure of the ‘none,’” and with sufficient time to enable a quality dialogue.

Second, when the sharing is between a company executive and a lower-echelon employee, executive leaders must have full awareness of how their positional leverage impacts the dynamic with an employee, he said.

“We have to discern if someone is truly seeking and open to discussion, or is uncomfortable and simply being agreeable to avoid a negative response to a senior leader,” Schoenle said. There is often “an associated, perceived professional risk that is most always imagined but a real concern.”

Outreach from the top

There are a number of examples where business leaders of faith have created opportunities for Catholic evangelization both inside and outside the workplace.

McCartney cites the examples of two Legates from his own Genesis Chapter in Ohio: Rich Cronin, president and owner of Perrysburg Auto Mall/Cronin Buick GMC, and Brady Fineske, president of TDC Investment Advisory Services in Maumee. The two men are “bold examples to me personally of leaders who live their Catholic faith in the workplace,” he said.

“Both have hosted Catholic events inside their organizations and made them open to all employees,” said McCartney. “I’m confident their good examples are not lost on the ‘nones’ working in their organizations.”

As board chairman for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Toledo, Cronin also has spearheaded a series of Catholic Business Network events locally, featuring a monthly Mass and guest speakers. These are open to all, and network participants are encouraged to bring guests. “This puts ‘nones’ in the company of many practicing Catholic business people,” McCartney said.

Over at Ford, Schoenle said opportunities to evangelize “nones” and other co-workers have increased despite its publiccompany status. Years ago, Ford developed and launched an Interfaith Network resource program open to employees of all faiths. Its activities are largely ecumenical, such as a National Day of Prayer service, but there are also programs that are specific to particular faith groups and denominations.

“Our Catholic group has conducted Life in the Spirit Seminars and an Oremus Prayer study in order to be a witness for Christ and a visible example of Catholic Christianity in our company,” he said.

From ‘none’ to truth

When it comes to reaching out to “nones” in the workplace one-on-one, McCartney and Schoenle agreed on the basic principles: it involves being present, building trust, and taking the time.

 “In my experience, an extended process with God’s grace bears the best results,” Schoenle advised.

“Be visible with your faith, so others clearly identify you as a Catholic Christian,” Schoenle said. For him, this means displaying in his office a small cross, prayer books, and a copy of the Universal Prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI.

 He also witnesses subtly in casual encounters. “In general conversation about family, I’ll talk about an experience one of the children had in their Catholic school, or something about my oldest son’s work in Catholic radio,” he said. “An easy, regular opportunity is how you respond to the question every Monday, ‘How was your weekend, and what did you do?’ This is an excellent chance to briefly share about an important feast day, a presentation you heard, a conference or retreat you attended.”

Overt discussions of faith come later, he said, once a level of friendship has been established.

 “Build relationship and trust, then evangelize,” said Schoenle. “We know that others don’t care about what we say or recommend until they know we care and can be trusted. This requires time and effort to build a friendship and demonstrate love for them.”

Abetted by prayer, this process should open up a communication path that facilitates a more positive reception to our encouragement toward embracing faith, he added.

McCartney resonated with that, emphasizing that living our Catholic faith by word and example must happen in the workplace as well as outside it.

“Opportunities to lead souls to Christ by example at work are unlimited,” he said. “In fact, if we are not leading by example, we are not leading—period.”

That begins with integrity — integrating our faith within our lives and aligning our actions with our words, he said. Integrity is foundational to credibility, and credibility, which builds trust, is essential to leadership. But evangelizing by word “requires more discretion,” he noted, meaning we must consider whether the time and place are appropriate.

Still, “Good leaders look for situations to share their convictions, like faithbased beliefs, in a way that communicate trust of those listening,” McCartney said. “And if the leader is credible, his or her words carry weight.”

Begin with questions

When a specific opportunity to reach out to a “none” arises, McCartney said he would begin by learning where the individual is on his faith journey by asking “a few simple, non-threatening questions” that will encourage him to share his story. That helps cultivate the kind of trust and relationship needed to accompany the “none” on a journey toward faith.

And that’s not a one-off endeavor, but a long-term commitment.

“Religious beliefs are usually a result of a longer process than one conversation,” he said. “I’m in it for the long haul. The more I earn someone’s trust, especially someone who has no faith, the more influence I have to encourage the person to learn about the one true Faith.”

“Nones” are not always easy to relate to, whether due to generational gaps, diverse backgrounds, or cultural differences, but the example of Christ tells us we must seek out the lost sheep in order to lead them home.

“The old saying ‘Meet them where they are’ has merit,” McCartney said. “Just don’t stop where they are. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me lead them to the truth.”

 GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine editorial consultant.


Four steps to workplace evangelism

Writing in Catholic Answers magazine, staff apologist Michelle Arnold recently offered a four-step technique for sparking a faith discussion with a co-worker:

  1. Ask sincere questions that show genuine interest in the other person. That means questions the person will enjoy answering — that gets the ball rolling. But watch for any hints that the question is unwelcome.
  2. Find common ground. Don’t water down what you believe, but seek interests or past experiences that you share. Those help advance the conversation.
  3. Share personal experiences. You’ve got stories; they’ve got stories. When you share them comfortably, mutual trust grows.
  4. Offer resources — when the time is right. Whether it’s a book, a website, a parish group, pass something along where they might explore faith on their own. “Your enthusiasm may inspire people to want to learn more,” Arnold said.

On-the-job evangelism isn’t easy, but you don’t have to be an apologist to do it well: “You just have to genuinely care about other people and Be able to project that love for them into your conversations about the Faith,” Arnold concluded.

Empowering leaders for much-needed Catholic evangelization


Tim Flanagan estimates that the Catholic Leadership Institute, the Pennsylvania based nonprofit organization he founded, has provided parish leadership training to some 20 percent of all priests in the United States.

“They’ve gone on to have significant growth and impact in their parishes in the areas of evangelization with the programs they’ve brought through the training they’ve received, with the pastoral plans and visions they’ve put together,” said Flanagan, chairman of CLI.

Under Flanagan’s direction, CLI has gone on to provide leadership formation and consulting to clergy and lay leaders in more than 100 dioceses in the United States and around the world. For his efforts, Flanagan, 77, a member of the Philadelphia Chapter, is the recipient of Legatus’ 2019 Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization, which is named for the former Major League Baseball commissioner who was a devout Catholic. Flanagan recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be given the Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization?

I’m really honored and humbled. Bowie was an outstanding Catholic leader who certainly was a great evangelizer. He started Baseball Chapel, a ministry for professional baseball people to deepen their Christian faith, and expanded it to over 100 major and minor league clubs in the United States. They currently minister to over 3,000 people.

By way of an interesting analogy of evangelization, the Catholic Leadership Institute has provided world-class leadership formation for over 3,000 priests through our “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” program, and they’ve gone on to strengthen their parishes and develop them into really strong, faith-filled communities.

What is Catholic Leadership Institute’s mission?

 We are equipping leaders and igniting hope in the Church. We do that by providing bishops, priests, religious, deacons, and lay people with world-class pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their confidence and competence in their ministry, which enables them to articulate a vision for their local Church to call forth the gifts of those they lead, and to create more vibrant faith communities rooted in Jesus Christ.

What made you want to commit your life to developing Catholic leaders?

 In 1989, on a corporate retreat, I was asked to write out a personal mission statement. While writing, I felt called to bring leadership to the Catholic Church. I had seen it in academia, in the military, and in business where millions of dollars were being spent to develop human potential, but I hadn’t seen that in the Church. That was an epiphany for me.

 How much of leadership is dependent on personal temperament, talent, and aptitude?

 There is such a thing as a born leader, and that’s a certain percentage of the population. There are people who you just look at and you know they have the skill sets to have followers and lead people. But we’re all called to leadership through our baptism in terms of evangelization. Anybody who was created by God has great potential. If they’re given the training and the skills, they can be more effective as a leader.

How has being a Legate impacted you spiritually and professionally?

Legatus has had a very significant impact in my life in allowing me to meet wonderful Catholic leaders, hear outstanding speakers at our chapter meetings, attend the Summits, and observe other Legates who have very meaningful Catholic-based lives. All that really opened up my own desire to explore my faith. 

Professionally, Legatus has had a very high impact on the development of our organization. As we started to expand across the United States, it was always by working through other Legates in other chapters in other cities across the country

Leaders, opt for patience over tolerance

Truth be told, among all the types of Catholic leaders we provide training and formation to, my favorite to work with are seminarians. I’m inspired by their authentic zeal, and despite the seeming narrowness of their perspective, I am grateful for their desire to probe and challenge in order to understand the landscape in which they will, God willing, one day serve. One bright seminarian this year asked me, “Sum it up for us. What’s the biggest leadership challenge you see in the Church.” I answered, “Too much tolerance for mediocrity.” There were head nods and smiles. Then I continued, “And too little patience for people.” Their faces turned from feeling affirmed to feeling challenged.

In my 15 years of serving bishops, priests, deacons, and lay leaders in over 100 dioceses, this is the biggest tension I see at every level and I think it is also applicable for Catholic CEOs (and not only CEOs of Catholic organizations).

Let’s be clear: tolerance and patience are not the same. Tolerance, and especially tolerance for mediocrity, is a test of how much pain we can endure and how much pain we are willing to inflict on others for the sake of not having to change. I see it constantly. I can’t tell Sally she’s rude, that would hurt her feelings. We can’t start that project over, we’ve spent so much time already. We have to keep the pianist, he’s been with us forever. We wait, we complain to others, we wish the person would just leave, and the situation only gets worse. Because not only does the person or people who are the source of the challenge continue to create challenge, other people — especially top performers — become disillusioned, frustrated, and begin to plot their exit or start to exit mentally. Tolerance is often a nefarious condition. While we think we are maintaining, we really are losing.

And yet the other side of the coin can be just as dangerous. We lack patience for the people we lead and serve. We don’t understand why they “don’t just get it,” or we muster the courage to give them some direct feedback and after one conversation, they still don’t change. How dare they! People don’t respond to things in the way we expect. When they don’t seek the truth or understand the context, our impatience turns to frustration, our frustration into malaise or anger, and we tell ourselves “they’re just not worth it. It’s just not worth it.”

Tolerance is a trap. Patience is a virtue. As CEOs we need to be vigilant against tolerating mediocrity in our workplace culture. If we don’t, we begin a race to lowest common denominator which will always result in failure to our bottom lines and more importantly failure to our people who deserve better. Yet as we engage in those hard conversations and challenge assumed constraints, we are called to do so with great patience. Patience not only speaks to who we are, it speaks to who we believe others have the potential to be. It speaks to how much we believe they too are made in God’s image and likeness.

As ambassadors for Christ in the marketplace, one of the most effective things we can do to proclaim the Gospel is to remove the false choice between truth and love. Love is truth. Truth is love. True love and real truth require us to challenge patiently. Lowering the bar will never allow us to achieve our goals. Neither will expecting others to raise the bar without our help. We need only look to our ultimate model of leadership, Jesus Christ, for the playbook as to what it looks like to love people patiently, painfully to the truth.

DAN CELLUCCI is the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute (www.catholicleaders.org) which provides leadership training and support to Church leaders throughout the world. Dan is a frequent speaker to Legatus chapters

Better leaders are willing to be led

Legate Andrew Abela spent his first week as dean of Catholic University’s Busch School of Business asking each of the school’s senior staff questions and listening carefully to the answers.

He then called everyone together to share what he had learned and to set priorities for the school.

“Collective Ambition”

In another era, someone like Abela might have seized command and informed the staff of the direction the school would be taking. But as a leader in 2019, he employed what’s known as “collective ambition,” a team-oriented process for determining the purpose of an organization. “You enlist the aid of the decisionmakers,” said Harvey Seegers, associate dean for administration at the Busch School, “to put together a very cogent explanation of what the mission of the organization is and what values you cherish as you pursue its objectives.”

For much of the 20th century, Seegers said, most organizations were run like the military in a command-and-control style in which the person at the top charged those under him with accomplishing certain tasks and goals.

“Enlightened management in the 21st century is more about bottoms-up leadership, where you enlist everybody in the organization to help define what the mission is and the means of accomplishing the mission,” Seegers said. “In many ways it is very similar to the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social tradition – placing the responsibility at the lowest level qualified to do it.”

Balancing the top-heavy company

Seegers began to experience this shift in management style when he worked at General Electric in the 1990s under former CEO Jack Welch, who had introduced what he called “boundarylessness” in the 1980s. “He was a big believer in subsidiarity because he was constantly challenging the officers in the company to get the work to the lowest level you could do it.” Seegers said by pushing work down the organization, Welch was able to turn a top-heavy company into a more balanced one. As a result, the company’s stock price skyrocketed and what Welch was doing drew the attention of other CEOs and business publications. Even the Harvard Business School picked up on his method.

Its inclusion in Catholic social tradition aside, Seegers said, subsidiarity is a good management technique because it drives productivity. And, he added, employing it doesn’t mean a leader isn’t strong. “The best leaders lead through persuasion and influence rather than command and control.” They can do this because they have the self-confidence to acknowledge they don’t know everything, but also possess the skill set to discover what they need to know by asking the right questions of others. “My experience has been that the very best business leaders govern, if you will, and lead by asking the right questions.”

Asking the right questions, the best way

Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, considers asking good questions so important that he has devoted an entire book – Questions Are the Answer – to the topic. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, he said understanding what kinds of queries spark creative thinking is key. “There are lots of questions you can ask,” he wrote. “But only the best really knock down barriers to creative thinking and channel energy down new, more productive pathways.” He said such questions reframe the problem, intrigue the imagination, invite others’ thinking, open space for different answers, and are not posed in a way that asserts position power.

Seegers said asking the right questions comes naturally to some people, but most need training and experience to do it properly. “People don’t do it because they don’t know how to do it, but the other element is that people who don’t do it sometimes have a deep-seated insecurity that it will be a sign of weakness if they ask somebody.

It’s kind of ironic: people who ask these questions and know how to do it are really reflecting strength.”

Asking good questions also is one of the hallmarks of a servant leader, a concept credited to Robert Greenleaf, who developed his ideas while working in management for AT&T and then published them in an essay in 1970. “The best servant leader asks the most provocative questions to help discover the truth,” said Patricia Falotico, CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Servant leadership – non-coercive but very strong

When applied to business, servant leadership is about understanding and meeting the needs of others so they can fulfill their highest potential and aspirations, Falotico said. “It’s not a tower-over, coercive leadership model. It is a very focused, others-centered leadership style. The leader is all about providing the resources necessary for teammates to thrive.” Ultimately, Falotico said, servant leadership helps organizations thrive and contribute to a better world.

As someone who grew up in a command-and-control environment, Falotico became a convert to servant leadership when she began to recognize that telling people “this is the way we’re going to do it” was not necessarily helping them to be their best. “I shifted into servant leadership without even knowing that that was what it was called.” Early in her career, she said, she was becoming frustrated with the people she was leading as a first-line manager in a corporate setting. Her husband challenged her to stop thinking about getting the job done and whether it matched how she would have done it and instead to start helping those under her to do the job their way.

Though sometimes mistakenly associated with weakness, the servant leadership model actually requires great strength because more is required of the leader, Falotico said. “It takes a lot more work to ensure that you are that you are putting the interests of others ahead of your own and . . . achieving the outcomes you need. It takes persistence, courage, the ability to have people become more accountable, the need to inspire others, the need to get them to feel a sense of shared ownership. There is nothing soft about it. What it isn’t is coercive. In a world where we associate strength with coercion, servant leaders are not coercive, but are very strong.”

Not everybody’s best friend

Falotico said someone who thinks of a servant leader as being everybody’s best friend is probably not going to want to embrace the concept. However, she continued, “Quite honestly, not all servant leaders are everybody’s best friend. We push, we challenge, we hold the bar high. The difference is we will help you get to that bar. We’re all about getting great results and building really powerful relationships with others.”

Although not a purely Catholic idea, servant leadership is nonetheless practiced by many Catholics who live out its principles in their business lives, Falotico said.

Seegers said servant leadership is taught at the Busch School, particularly in the classes of Andreas Widmer, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and author of The Pope and the CEO. Widmer’s book shares the leadership lessons he learned while serving as a Swiss Guard protecting Pope John Paul II and refined in his own business career. “He teaches servant leadership from day one and uses the word,” Seegers said.

He said he also has seen servant leadership at work in Abela’s challenge to the school’s leadership team to lead with truth and charity. “Truth means we don’t want to lull ourselves into believing everything is perfect and we’re constantly looking for the truth, but the charity part is to do it with magnanimity. You don’t go searching for the truth like an army soldier. You pursue it with grace and dignity and in a way that’s respectful of the other person. It’s a great way to think about servant leadership.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Business and faith: A match made in heaven?

I recently served on A discussion panel where Catholic business leaders explored the degree of compatibility between faith and business practices, including corporate charitable giving. A distinct mix of opinions was expressed. In an era when it cannot be agreed that 2 + 2 = 4, can business people be as divided as the rest of the country? Or perceive that faith presents different dictates to different people? Is there no common denominator?

Probably not, but let’s try two ideas on for size.

My dad, a businessman and one of the most charitable people I’ve known, always spoke of “helping the least of our brethren.” Judging from our mailbox at home while growing up, it seemed that every mission around the world depended on his good will.

Try one more. “Children are a gift from God,” said Mother Teresa, whom my wife and I met many years ago while volunteering at Caligat, her “Home for the Destitute Dying” in Calcutta. She was remarkable in her approachability, energy, and good humor.

Perhaps not all readers would agree with my dad and Mother Teresa, though it’s hard to argue with the Gospels and a saint. Thus, in exploring the alignment between business and faith, it might be instructive to ask business people to assess their actions, processes, and charitable commitments through the lens of how well they are serving the least of our brethren, including children.

Looking through this lens, I would submit that in the sea of all the good things that businesses and their people do, there are two opportunities that are overlooked: improving education and addressing fatherlessness.

Improving education has many definitions. Many businesses donate books, provide reading tutors, and teach STEM classes. All good. But to me, real improvement will rely on market forces – yes, good ol’ competition – when poor kids and their parents are given the freedom to select from a menu of public, private, religious, cyber, and home educational options that fit their circumstances and preferences. But the forces of the public school monopoly are strong, vocal, and well funded. Some school choice advocates have declared this the civil rights issue of our day. But where are voices of business leaders, whose instincts I have to believe, despite divisions, lean toward free markets? I don’t hear them.

Nor do I hear business leaders weighing in on fatherlessness despite nearly 20 million kids in the U.S. living without their dads. Most are being raised by single mothers, nearly 50 percent of whom live in poverty. Too many families, the key building blocks of society, are shattered. Too many kids live desperate lives marked by loneliness, neglect, gangs, drugs, crime, pregnancy, hopelessness, failure in school, and lack of love. In the mid-1960s, the vast majority of children lived with both parents. To be sure, some were poor and faced enormous challenges.

But with two parents in their corner, they at least had the fighting chance that too many kids today lack. What happened? We could debate the causes forever. But sadly, and with tragic consequences, our culture seems to have concluded that dads are obsolete and unnecessary, to be tossed onto some 21st-century trash heap with other anachronisms. And so too many of our kids suffer without the love, hard work, protection, discipline, and guidance of their fathers – while we delude ourselves that mothers can do it all.

What can businesses do? Plenty. There are numerous agencies, non-profits, private groups, and individuals doing heroic work both to offer kids a better education and rebuild fatherhood. In supporting any of these initiatives with their drive, creativity, and intelligence, business leaders can help many of the least of our brethren while witnessing to what our faith prescribes.

BILL MCCUSKER is Founder & CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc., whose mission is improving the lives of children, mothers, and families by building awareness of the importance of fathers, and by helping fathers be better fathers. He is recently retired from the business world where he spent 36 years in executive and marketing leadership roles. www.fathersfamilies.com.